It wasn't anywhere I would've imagined myself before I moved to this city eight months ago, but around midnight on a recent Saturday I was partying at the former Versace mansion, now dubbed Casa Casuarina, on Ocean Drive. The occasion was the 50th birthday celebration of Boca Raton venture capitalist Mike Brauser, who was preparing to open a new Italian restaurant with local restaurateur Dave Manero and actor Danny DeVito.
Brauser had spared no expense, and on the surface everything was fabulous. The ridiculously wealthy and the obstinately beautiful adorned in Pucci, Gucci, and Louis congregated around tables overflowing with king crab legs and lobster tails. Waiters teetered through the busy crowd with champagne flutes brimming with Cristal, and only Cristal, I was assured; at the bar stone-faced servants quickly poured Belvedere martinis and shots of Nob Creek.
Apollo Kid says farewell
On Casuarina's stage, DJ Irie spun sugary hits from the Eighties as half-naked go-go dancers swiveled their pelvises and shook their gravity-defying breasts. Later that evening, pop-hop superstar Nelly and his St. Lunatics posse took the stage for a brief and largely lifeless performance. To the left of the stage, Brauser bumped and grinded with either his escort for the evening or his third wife. And in case the birthday boy failed to remember every detail of the magical night, a professional film crew captured every single second.
You'd think I would be having a great time, right? Perhaps in a trance of liquor and Lacroix, I would join the throngs of fortysomething socialites who were raising the roof as Nelly whizzed through a version of "Hot in Herre." Or maybe I'd even follow the lead of the Armani-clad businessmen and excuse myself to the bathroom for a couple of bumps. But like most forms of excess, this was more disgusting than exhilarating, something created by people with too much money and not enough imagination. In the end, it simply wasn't me.
And despite what you read in Ocean Drive or see on E! Entertainment Television, it isn't Miami, or at least it's not the Miami I'll choose to remember after I leave the city next month. My Magic City is the one where the Latin sounds of the Bacon Bits filter out of Jazid at three in the morning, where the infectious noise of Awesome New Republic fills the parking lot behind the old Sweat Records as the indie faithful bob their heads to awkward anthems such as "Kill South Beach Dead."
In my Miami, the preternaturally talented MC Garcia does his best to overcome the shoddy sound system at the Polish American Club, and local folk troubadour Jesse Jackson bangs out his sad ballads at Stop Miami as a rapt audience tightly encircles him.
I'll try to forget the times spent shouting at R. Kelly on the VMA red carpet or talking with Suge Knight at The Victor, and instead concentrate on sharing a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label with rock and roll animal Abel Folgar and discussing literature into the wee hours of the morning with Miami's makeshift intelligentsia, Omar Sommereyns and Steve Strizver. I'll remember comparing favorite Bob Dylan songs with writer/musician Jason Jeffers, dancing alongside Jess Jerrick and P.J. Tobia at Nocturnal, and sharing the DJ booth with Mr. Mauricio at Privé as the raucous crowd danced on the couches and swigged Patrn from the bottle.
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I'll remember (and cherish) the long nights spent soaking up suds at the cavernous and calmly cool South Beach bar The Room, discussing hip-hop with Patrice E.G. Yursik, and leaving work with Francisco Alvarado and Forrest Norman to enjoy happy hour at the New Times's favorite watering hole, The Legion the rare Miami bar where nothing costs more than five dollars and American flags unironically adorn the walls.
I'll remember mocking the faux-hipster décor of Buck 15 with Jonathan Zwickel, and partying at the Pawn Shop with K. Lee Sohn and Nirmala Nataraj (who, in my honest and unbiased opinion, is the most beautiful writer in Miami). I'll remember arguing about Diplo and cultural imperialism with Dominic Sirianni and José Davila as we sipped 25-cent Budweisers outside Señor Frog's on Collins Avenue.
My Miami won't need the adornment of South Beach celebrity culture that is supposedly the lifeblood of this city's nightlife. It doesn't need the $12 cocktails or the two-grand handbags or the oppressive velvet ropes. The Miami I'll remember is beautiful just like it is. And though I'm happy to be returning to San Francisco, I wish I could've stuck around just a little bit longer.
Peace out, everyone.